Paris Ministry Celebrates 1st Anniversary!

When Samir Salibi moved to Paris, France as a 12 year-old, non-Christian immigrant from Lebanon, little did he know that one day two decades later,  he would be coming to the rescue of many migrants and displaced people himself.  But that is exactly what happened, and on December 2nd, members of the Three Worlds Missionary Team in Europe and the Middle East were in Paris to celebrate the first anniversary of this revolutionary new ministry.

Two years ago, Europe was suddenly inundated by refugees and migrants escaping war and poverty from throughout the Middle East and North Africa.  More than 10,000 refugees have descended on Paris, and the government has tried to place them in villages around the countries. Many first arrive in Paris and live on the streets until their paperwork can be processed.  Makeshift tents adorn the streets under bridges in the Port de la Chapelle area of the city.  

What started as one man's response to the refugee crisis, has blossomed into a new Church of God ministry that is pulling together Evangelicals from all over Paris and other parts of France.  Samir, a gifted leader in I.T. and in ministry, has the ability to provide visionary leadership that can mobilize many people.   Before long, there was a large crew of Church of God believers as well as people from many other denominations and ethnicities serving the Lord together.  Samir quickly became the linchpin that held it all together and was praised by the leader of the Evangelical churches in France for his superb leadership.

The ministry, which Samir called "@home" is meant to convey a sense of belonging to all who are served or worship with the Christian community.  The refugees and migrants may be lost and displaced, but there is always a home for them--amongst this Christian community of faith.  The government tries to provide assistance and other non-profit groups drop off supplies on the streets.  But what quickly became evident to Samir was that none of these groups were truly viewing these refugees in a wholistic way---as complete people with a wide variety of needs.  

Samir began to mobilize volunteers to distribute food, blankets, and items like gloves; the basic needs for survival.  He then invited them to worship services where they could hear the Gospel.  Meanwhile, the Christian volunteers from different denominations met, planned and worked together.   Before long, Samir was offering french lessons, and other things that the refugees would need to integrate into society.   But then the next step was to offer things that gave them the value and joy that we all need in our daily lives.  There was a sports ministry,  art and dance classes, dinners and Bible Study classes.   A group from YYAM even sent a group to paint the faces of the refugees to raise awareness.  Out of all of this evolved a church:  @home; a church borne out of the needs of the least of these.

Sadly, Samir faced the greatest resistance from Christians who wanted to stay inward looking, or felt threatened by the dynamism of this new ministry and new model.  Samir and his family were not spared personal attacks that were very hurtful.  But he was sustained by the Three Worlds Team (Europe and the Middle East) that has known him for 7 years and seen the high level of integrity and Christian maturity in which he deals with everything.  Pastors from the United States and donors in the Church of God have lifted up Samir during the difficult times, and the ministry is now flourishing.  

With such a large sphere of influence amongst the refugees and migrants, Samir is looking to find facilities where refugees and migrants can Samir is looking for spaces where migrants can go to church.  Others are directed to Evangelical churches that are prepared to integrate them.  There is still a tremendous need as the 3W Team found out on a recent visit when snow and cold wind fell on the poorly-sheltered people on the street.  Fortunately, Samir's church model took the church directly to the streets and serving the people and building community is the heart of the church.  By "caring for the least of these," God has greatly anointed the @home ministry.  Samir is looking for people that would like to partner with him and help support this out-of-the-box, new paradigm of ministry and church.   Donations can be given to Global Strategy's Paris @home project #42.30501

Should We Be Worried About North Korea?

 

 

When President Obama briefed President Trump in November, he warned Trump that North Korea would be his most difficult problem.  Why should this be the case?  North Korea has routinely been threatening to go nuclear and bomb other countries for decades.  Literally every Spring, North Korea fires a few volleys of missiles to make everyone nervous.  They also make threats around any U.S. election.  Then there is the way they test missiles whenever their food supply gets too low or feel like ISIS and Al-Qaeda get too much attention.  This has been an empty piece of kabuki theatre for so many years that it's hard to believe this time it's serious.  Unfortunately, there is reason to think something has changed.  

A GIANT PRISON CAMP

North Korea is a very weak country.  It is stuck in the 19th Century.  The bulk of it's 22 million people live hand to mouth farming as if it were 200 years ago.  Very few, even in the capital city where the elite live, have regular electricity.  There is no internet.  The few shoddy goods the North Koreans trade are purchased almost entirely by China (85%).  North Korea has no allies, and there are no guarantees that their large military has the food, fuel, or supply-lines to keep a war going for more than a few days.  

Neither is there much proof that their weapons are any good.  We only see the outside of the missiles in parades, and North Korean tests fail far more often than they succeed.  The country is really just a giant prison camp.  The North Koreans live in constant fear of being sent to prison camps which are horrifically brutal.  Regular beatings, torture, even the crushing of the skulls of infants are regularly reported.  Entire families of multiple generations can be sent to prison for the most basic offenses.  All of this is led by a small group of geriatric, authoritarian leaders and whichever Kim is alive.  Currently, it's Kim Jong Un.  People are taught that that Kim Il Sung, his grandfather and founder of North Korea, is God.  His also deceased father Kim Jong Il plays the Jesus role, and the Holy Spirit of revolution is "Juche." For most of the last 60 years, the average North Korean truly believed that their country was the greatest, their leaders gods, and that they were constantly on the brink of war with South Korea and the USA.  Years of being cut-off from the normal world left them starving to death, mentally and physically impaired, and unable to cope with or understand modern life.  There is simply no country as dysfunctional or bizarre as North Korea.  Nothing is even close. Once it collapses, the stories that will come out of there will leave the world stunned.

DANGEROUS CHANGES

For the most part, North Korea has been full of hot air and empty threats.  I lived in South Korea just after the great famine and there was a brief time in 1995 while I was there, that North and South almost went to war.  The trigger was almost pulled.  We dodged a bullet, and things returned to normal with North Korea claiming they could launch nuclear weapons and blackmailing the international community for foreign aid.  

The past 10 years, however, have seen some dramatic changes.  The death of Kim Jong Il put his inexperienced, twenty-something son in charge.  This seems to have led to a jostling for power and the execution of an uncle by aircraft fire.  There's rumors of more dissent at the upper levels of leadership. DVD's and Mp3's started to get smuggled into the country showing the North Koreans that the world outside was wealthy, modern, and peaceful.  Soap operas from China and South Korea were not only a hit underground, but showed how much the people had been lied to by their government.  Relations with their only (and even then), partial ally China deteriorated, and their natural distrust and disdain for the Chinese reasserted itself.  Last, a black market is flourishing and border guards have become easier to bribe as people seek to escape.

Meanwhile, North Korea has at least developed the outside shells of some new land and sea-based weapons that can easily reach Japan, South Korea, and they say, Los Angeles.  None of this can be verified, but experts now believe that by 2020, the North Koreans will be able to put a nuclear-tipped warhead on a missile that can reach L.A.  That is the issue Obama was most-likely talking about.  Can the world allow a nuclear North Korea?

WHAT WOULD WAR LOOK LIKE?

An option for Trump would be a pre-emptive strike.  On one hand, it was reported in Foreign Affairs Journal that the U.S. military now has the capability of destroying a nuclear missile before it leaves the silo.  There are also reports that the U.S. can now control the missiles after their launch thanks to cyber-espionage.  If true, perhaps a pre-emptive strike would work.  Unfortunately, it's much more complicated than that.  

For starters, the North Koreans have heavy artillery on the border which is a very short distance from the 12 million people of Seoul, South Korea.  Even if Kim was bluffing about his military power, there would be enough time to kill thousands, hundreds of thousands, and perhaps millions in the very opening rounds.  In that sense, the people of Seoul are already hostages.  

The South Koreans and the U.S. would be able defeat North Korea's old, primitive, poorly led, and poorly supplied military.  That is for sure.  Nevertheless, in the time that it would take for that to happen, North Korea could also bomb and kill thousands of Japanese by firing over the Sea of Japan.  So the decision to fight really has to be in the hands of Japan and South Korea, not any U.S. President because once the war starts, Japan and South Korea; our allies, home of thousands of our troops, and juggernauts of the global economy, will take severe hits.  Not to mention that China could also be targeted or join in the fight against the U.S.  Neither outcome would be good.

It gets worse, Kim could have a nuclear capability or at least produce a dirty bomb.  If not that, then possibly a large chemical attack.  But let's say North Korea completely blows the opening act of the war and is defeated quickly.  The problem then is that North Korea is one of the most mountainous countries in the world.  Weapons and people would be able to be hidden all over the country--and probably are.  Thinks of the problem of Vietnam, but with even worse terrain.  It would take hundreds of thousands of troops to clear out every mountain, valley and cave; and how long would the resistance last?  Are Americans up to another 20 year war against insurgents?  What if, like in Syria, the region becomes engulfed in thousands of mini-militias all fighting the U.S and any other country involved?  This is all highly possible.  

This "good option" (a quick win), would make the situation in Syria look like a walk in the park.  Suddenly, we would have 22 million refugees fleeing militias and none of them would be remotely equipped to integrate into the modern world.  Food and housing alone would require assistance from the whole global community.  And then where to put them?   South Korea is already crowded, and how do they integrate millions of people that have been trained for generations to hate the South?  China already has 1.3 billion mouths to feed.   The U.S barely wants to take in a few thousand well-educated Syrians.  Are we going to take in 20 million North Koreans who barely have a 3rd grade education and suffer the effects of years of malnutrition?  

IS THERE ANY WAY OUT?

Starting a war in North Korea now would leave us with the biggest crisis since World War II within the first 10 minutes of the war.  The only half-way decent thing is highly unlikely:  a sudden regime collapse followed by a global effort to feed, educate, and partially re-integrate North Korea into the modern world.  Even then, a unified Korea would make both China and Japan nervous and lead the region to go nuclear.   Another better but certainly not rosy scenario is that the North Koreans don't fight at all and simply surrender.  That still would leave someone, or many countries, with the responsibility of occupying a highly populated nation of people who don't know how to survive in the modern world.  Then there would be the clean-up damage in Japan, South Korea, and even China due to our use of force.  Once again, that would seem to want to push all sides to go nuclear.

If Kim pulls the trigger first, then the U.S., South Korea, and Japan will respond immediately and some form of massive chaos will take place.  However, I think Kim is mostly bluffing.  He knows that having a nuclear weapon is what could have saved Saddam Hussein and Colonel Qadaffi from being toppled.  If the U.S does a pre-emptive strike, they better make sure Japan, South Korea, and China are part of the decision and ready to possibly lose hundreds of thousands of people and be inundated by refugees.  Let us hope the President has thought of all these complications.

One way or another, a moment of reckoning is coming soon, and there's very little reason to think that the U.S. striking first would be a good idea.  Sadly, the absolute best option might be for all the countries to get their own nuclear weapons, North Korea to slowly reform, and for the stale-mate to continue on for more decades.  You know the situation is dire when a bunch of countries that hate each other pointing nuclear weapons at each other for decades is the best solution.

 

The 11th Annual Patty Awards: Top 10 Books of 2016

It's time for the 11th Annual Patty Awards, where I give out the awards for the best books I've read in 2016.  All of the big stars are walking onto the Red Carpet.  Is that Bronson Pinchot walking down the Red Carpet?  Look it’s Scott Baio! There is Kristi McNichol, Robby Benson, and Wink Martindale. All the very biggest global celebraties are here, so let’s go! 

Well, except for a bad run in the Spring, this year was filled with great books, but here are the 10 best:

10)  Abundance:  The Future is Better Than You Think by Peter H. Diamandis:  I read a few different books about the future and technological change.  “Abundance,” which is from 2014 was the most out-of-date.  However, it was the best at framing the very positive changes that are happening in bio-tech, artificial intelligence, robotics, energy innovations, the internet of things, and many other areas that are transforming the world.  It gave the best macro-picture of why there are quite a few things to be optimistic about, and how once they scale, we may have found solutions to some of the planet’s most challenging problems.  

9)  The Ice Twins: A Novel by S.K. Tremayne: After losing one of their twin girls, a yuppie couple from London decide to move to a remote island in Scotland to find a fresh start.  Once they move into their new home, strange things start to happen.  Cracking read, especially if you like thriller/mysteries.  

8) A Day in the Life of Ancient Rome by Alberto Angela: Translated from Italian, the author leads you through an entire day in Ancient Rome.  He is a wonderful writer who brings the old empire to life teaching you about everything from breakfast foods, housing, bathroom habits, the life of the wealthy, life in Rome after dark, and every little aspect of daily life.  It’s the quickest way to enter into the life of Ancient Rome, especially if you want to avoid the very large history books on the subject.  Angela did great with this.  I wish he could do this for other ancient empires.

7) The Devil’s Chessboard: Allen Dulles, the CIA, and the Rise of America’s Secret Government by David Talbott:   It reads like a novel, but it is a well-researched true story of the origins of the CIA and how, like J. Edgar Hoover’s F.B.I., the CIA was an over-empowered, rogue agency that often held Presidents captive until Kennedy began dismantling it, and the super-creepy and villianous Allen Dulles retired and passed away.  

6) My Story by Elizabeth Smart:  Elizabeth Smart made national headlines when she was abducted from her home by two mentally-ill strangers that held her captive, tortured her psychologically and raped her.  Only 14 years old, Elizabeth Smart was incredibly composed and mature through her ordeal, constantly protecting her family, staying positive, and not giving into the hate and fear.  The way she has turned this horrendous experience into something positive was extremely inspiring.  She is a very special person.

5) Careless Love:  The Unmaking of Elvis Presley by Peter Guralnick.  This is volume 2 of the two-volume definitive biography on Elvis which begins with “Last Train in Memphis.”  The second volume begins with Elvis going into the army in 1960 and covers his pinnacle, his career downturn, and his tragic final years of illness and addiction.  The final 7 years were more pathetic than I was expecting. Elvis disintegrates as his “friends” and manager Colonel Parker constantly take advantage of him.  All the while, Elvis is lonely and on a spiritual quest.  Deep down he was a very kind and gentle soul with exceptional manners.  Truly heartbreaking.    

4)  Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History by S.C. Gwynne. A finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, Empire tells the story of why and how the Comanches were able to resist encroachment by U.S. Forces for over four decades.  Their geographical location, intelligent battle tactics, and de-centralized leadership made them terrifying.  Their predictability helped U.S. Generals eventually begin the process of subjugating them. Gwynne makes it vividly clear that Comanche Territory around Texas and Oklahoma was very difficult to live in. Descriptions of life as a settler on the edge of the very frightening frontier/Indian Country was vivid and frightening. Very nicely written.    

3) American Nations:  A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America by Colin Woodward.  What if there was an American History book that told the history of the United States in the order that the country truly formed, by different regions—instead of a simplistic Plymouth Rock to Oregon narrative.  Woodward does just that by focusing on the different cultures and ecosystems that covered North America before and during the formation of the 50 United States.  The particular cultures, habits, and sensibilities of the different American regions still exist today, and this book explains clearly why New York City is so different from Appalachia, and both are so different from the Pacific Northwest, which is not like Wyoming etc.   It’s a fresh (and now very relevant) way of looking at the United States. Each region still has deeply held core values that contain their original culture.  Time has not really eroded them.  Fascinating book full of insights on every page.  Excellent!

3) Connectography-Mapping the Future of Global Civilization by Parag Khanna.  This is probably the best book on Globalization in the past 10 years.  Khanna is an exciting scholar based out of Singapore. I haven't underlined a book this much in a decade.  Despite the current anti-globalization climate, Khanna makes it so clear that connectivity, supply-chains, and infrastructure have already made globalization a permanent reality.  The world may be politically complaining, but every day, individuals, networks and new infrastructure are building something that can’t be undone by politics, a  new nationalism or even nations.  Each page is filled with concrete examples of how fast this inner-connectivity is occurring right now.  Superb!

2) I Want My MTV:  The Uncensored Story of the Music Television Revolution.  By Craig Marks and Rob Tannenbaum. Infinitely entertaining and fascinating story of how revolutionary MTV was (we forget) and how this kooky idea for a TV channel became a global phenomenon.  It is told from the perspective of famous musicians, directors, VJ’s, crew, producers, executives, and other celebrities that were part of its first 10 years.  Lots of your favorite 80’s stars are quoted and it is filled with great gossip, funny stories, memorable quotes and amazing revelations.  While hearing about the crazy origins of your favorite videos is a real laugh, the most fascinating thing about MTV is that it was an unbelievably poor network that successfully convinced the entire world that it was super rich.  In the early years, nearly broke, they showed an MTV learjet landing (where they had just painted the MTV logo on someone else's jet).  While famous artists all began promoting MTV, nobody knew how cheap and close to bankruptcy it always was.  It’s all there:  the VJ’s, Headbangers Ball, 120 minutes, Liquid Television, Daytona Spring Break, Club MTV, MTV Music Awards, Live AID and the creation of reality TV  through a (cheap) show called “The Real World.”  Anyone interested in business would also find the book great as it shows how the executives made the low-budget channel a multi-million dollar success.  But even when it was rich, everyone was still being paid poorly and costs were low.  The first Real-World cast made $7,000.  Cindy Crawford did “House of Style” for free the first year.  This was definitely the most fun book I have read in a long time.  Just like the 80’s, I didn’t want it to end, and didn’t handle it well when it did.  

Envelope please:    AND THE WINNER IS….

1) 438 Days-An Extraordinary True Story of Survival at Sea by Jonathan Franklin. This is the true story of an El Salvadoran fisherman who got caught in a storm and got lost at sea without food or water for 428 days in 2012.  Sailing in a tiny boat all the way across the Pacific from Coastal Mexico to Micronesia on the other side of the Pacific, Salvador Alvarenga managed to invent ways to get water, capture food, and stay psychologically sane as he floated for more than a year.  The descriptions of the storms and weather in the middle of the Ocean are absolutely terrifying.  “Twenty miles offshore, it’s a whole different world out there.”  It was thought that it was impossible for someone in his situation to live, but a number of odd variables gave Alvarenga the perfect brain, experience, faith, and body type to survive what would have killed almost everyone else.  The weather and the sea are characters in and of themselves as this book makes it clear that we are all very tiny parts of this big world that is almost entirely covered in Ocean.   I’ll never look at the Sea the same way again.  Remarkable human story.

Honorable Mention: 

Anatomy of an Epidemic-Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness by Robert Whitaker. It’s well-known that anxiety attacks, depression, attention deficit disorder, Post-Traumatic Stress and mental illness are at an all-time high.  Furthermore, Americans are using drugs like Prozac, Ridlin, and Xanax daily by millions of Americans. But do these things help or create a cycle in which the brain cannot heal?  Whitaker was among the pioneers of this kind of medication when it began in the 1970’s.  He worked with PTSD Vietnam Vets and believed in it, but saw the drugs and usage spiral out of control, and found massive problems in the research all sponsored by the drug companies.  Whitaker takes you back through the last 100 years of medical developments, the treatment of mental disorders, and through tons of studies and research in this book.  What he chronicles is the way Pharmaceutical companies deceptively marketed these drugs in ways that the goal would be to never get off of them or be able to.  It’s very eye-opening and disturbing plus backed by research that is very convincing.  What makes it most convincing is his description of how pharmaceutical companies use their power to always remain indispensable to psychiatry.  

Friday Night Lights by H.G. Bissinger.  The movie was great, and the TV show is phenomenal.  Nothing tops the TV show, but the book which it is all based on follows a 1988 high school football team in Odessa, Texas in the most competitive football state in the country.  Losing is not an option, and the entire town lives vicariously through the high school athletes to a degree that is stifling and unhealthy.  The book follows one season in the life of the highly successful Permian Panthers as the coach, players, and school officials try to guarantee a State Championship. The stress on the kids is made clear throughout the book.  The newest edition includes the author’s return visit 25 years later to see how many of the high school players survived the difficult grind of early glory before their life truly began.  He also finds that Odessa and Odessa football has changed.  It’s a great book, but the TV show is must-see TV.

Biggest Disappointment:

Collision Low Crossers:  A Year of the Turbulent World of NFL Football by Nicholas Dawadoff. The author got access to the New York Jets for an entire year around the 2011-2012 season.  From Training Camp to the last game of the season, he hangs around the players and coaches to report what life is like in the NFL.  It’s a good book, but it could have been so much more.  There were many issues it didn’t cover about life as an NFL player and seemed more about the choices Bill Parcels and his staff had to make throughout the year. It's more team management than life in the NFL.  I was frustrated.  I wish I could get access and write a book about the NFL.  

 

Next Year:

Well, that's it.  The big stars are heading home and the limousines are pulling out.  We'll be back next year for some more book reviews.  Up next year:  a book about life in Appalachia, the story of ExxonMobil, the Norway youth massacre, a biography of Simon Bolivar, Vietnam Green Berets, and the latest in the biotech revolution.  Support your local library and read some great books this year!

What I wish "Pastor Dan" Knew about Missionaries by Daniel Kihm

What I wish “Pastor Dan” knew about Missionaries:

For 8 years, I served as Senior Pastor of Maple Grove Church of God, in Anderson.
For the past three years, I have been serving as a missionary through Global Strategy, based in the Netherlands. My wife and I did not enter this career change lightly, nor naively. But I have been shocked at these
7 realizations, which I wish I would have known while I was a pastor in Indiana. I humbly request that you read these and take them to heart, and secondly that you share this list with the members of your missions committees.

1. Stress
I completely understand the stress of pastoral ministry. But I have been shocked at the stress of missionary service. According to the Holmes-Rahe Stress Inventory, which measures stress and its impact on our bodies, a score of 200 indicates a 50% chance of major health breakdown within the next two years. Veteran missionaries routinely score 600-700 on this inventory. The average score is even higher (800-900) in the first year on the field. This is absolutely crazy, and not a healthy way to maintain life! And yet, in our three years on the field, I can readily attest to these scores being accurate.

2. Re-Learning how to preach...through a translator.
Even as a kid, English came easy to me. Spelling, vocabulary, literature: some of my favorite school subjects. I used to analyze little words in crafting a sermon. Should I say ‘grand’ or ‘majestic?’ I wanted my congregation to understand what I was thinking. I honed my skill as a preacher for 17 years before becoming a missionary. And as a missionary, I found that I had to re-learn how to preach. Everything I said would be translated. And everything I said would be interpreted through different cultural lenses. One example: I tried to encourage them that my sermon was almost finished by saying, ‘Don’t worry. I’m rounding third and heading for Home.’ Then I had to spend the next several minutes giving them a primer on baseball so that they were not thoroughly confused. Even the most seasoned preachers are reduced to beginners’ level overseas.

3. Balancing ministry with connecting with supporters
It is pretty normal for pastors or church secretaries to contact missionaries asking for an update, a newsletter article, or asking for “just a quick video to share next Sunday with the congregation about ways we can pray for you and your people over there.” And yet, missionaries struggle trying to connect with, and appease, supporting churches while simultaneously doing the ministry they were sent to do. As a pastor, I wish I realized this as I recall times of contacting a missionary and giving them similar requests. It’s not unreasonable to give such requests to missionaries, but timelines and deadlines need to be flexible.

4. Languagelearning
In addition to learning a new culture, and the history of individuals, congregations and new countries, there are ministry tasks. In addition to ministry tasks, there is family life and all the joys that come with having a small child in a foreign environment. :-) In addition, though, missionaries are faced (often) with learning a new language. Studies show that for someone who is bi-lingual, it’s not that difficult to pick up a third language. However, it’s no secret that most Americans only speak English. Thus, learning a second language (sometimes even a second alphabet) is difficult. Especially for grown adults who are no longer in high school. This is no small task, and yet is critical for missionaries to understand and communicate the Gospel with the people whom they serve.

5. What to share in a Facebook world??
Family, friends, and ministry partners want to know what a missionary’s life is like. They want to hear ‘success stories’ and fulfilled prayer requests. And yet, missionaries struggle to share just enough so that supporting churches feel up-to-date, but at the same time not too much lest they reveal personal

information or condescending information in a world where everyone has Facebook and reads blogs. The people whom missionaries serve are people, not projects. Sometimes that severely limits what can be shared in social media, or even in other forms of communication.

6. Constant stress of fund-raising.
In addition to ministry and “life,” missionaries have to be on social media, and send out newsletters and blog posts, in order to connect with present and future ministry partners. This stress does not end when missionaries leave for their field of service. It is constant and never-ending, especially in a world where global economies fluctuate, and donors sometimes cease giving because their own budgets are getting tightened, or there is a change in lay or pastoral leadership.

7. Absence from family and friends, especially during holidays.
I am not trying to equate missionaries with military men and women who are stationed around the globe. One key distinction is that they are literally living in harm’s way, while many of us missionaries reside in more peace-filled lands. But we share feelings of separation from home: separation from families, friends, communities that speak our native tongue and appreciate the same customs and traditions with which we are familiar. Pray for your missionaries during any and all holidays. Pray for their families as many of us try to connect via Skype. But as we all know, as amazing as Skype and FaceTime are, it’s not the same as being able to hug your mom, grandma, or grand-child.

About the author:

Daniel & Christy Kihm serve with the Three Worlds team in Europe/Middle East, along with their daughter, Sofie. The Kihms will be on Home Assignment in the US (January-June 2017). If you have interest in hearing about their ministry, please contact them at kihms3w@gmail.com. They are actively seeking new financial partners in ministry as well, so if your congregation is looking to support additional missionaries, please keep them in mind. Additionally, you can follow their ministry on both Facebook & Twitter: @Kihms3w. 

The Making of "Us" by Audrey Weiger

The Making of “Us” by Audrey Weiger

“You fear that which you do not know.” -Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Three Worlds Team in Europe and the Middle East entered into a partnership to help German Church of God congregations ministering to refugees. They brainstormed ways to make this partnership happen and decided to connect Glamorgan Church of God in Calgary, Canada, to the Bad Segeberg Church of God in Bad Segeberg, Germany.

“Some refugees have lost everyone in their family before coming here,” Christy Kihm explained in an introductory seminar for the Canadian group. She and her husband, Dan, and their daughter, Sofie, Three Worlds team members in the Netherlands, drove down to Hamburg to meet the Canadian group to help prepare them for the week ahead. The Kihms work with several churches who have large populations of refugees and are also adept at navigating cultural differences and challenges. They presented the full picture of the ministry that the Three Worlds team is doing in Europe and the Middle East, and gave some context for the interactions the Canadians would be having in the coming week. Having the context is critically important before entering into a situation. The Kihms made sure that the group was set up, as much as possible, to learn and understand.

“Even a simple, ‘Do you have siblings?’ question could throw someone into a downward spiral,” Christy continued. “Not all of them are here for the same reason, so if you see someone shutting down when you ask about a particular topic, move onto a different topic. Food is usually a safe topic, and it’s a good place to start.”

It wasn’t just the Canadians who were preparing for the week. Some refugees were very skeptical, but trying to keep an open mind. After they met, they realized how many connections they had, and deep friendships started developing. I was so impressed with how the Canadian group dove into those relationships — asking questions, playing games, dancing, and getting to teach the refugees and Germans how to play baseball. You could see the walls of skepticism and fear coming down as they played billiards and learned words in each other’s languages.

That Thursday the church gathered for their third culture night of the week. It was the Syrian Night. We had had the German and Canadian Culture Nights already, where Canadians, Syrians, Iranians, Afghanis, Germans, and Americans were all in the same space to learn from each other and to share about the things they love. Jan Anton, one of the leaders of the Arabic church, stood up to give greetings, “We have a mountain of grief in our hearts, but even so, we want to celebrate with you tonight. But first, we prepared a special film for you to see.”

We all trudged up the stairs into the sanctuary space of the more than 50-year-old building. The projector buzzed, and immediately we were caught with images of Syrian cities in their splendor and glory. Beautiful fountains, sculptures, high-rise buildings, and smiling faces captured our attention. This was the pre-war Syria that our refugee friends knew. Pictures of hundreds of people wearing Santa hats and huge Christmas trees at the center of Christmas celebrations were rolling before our eyes, and in the background the Arabic version of, “Angels we have

heard on high,” was playing. By the third time through the chorus, everyone was singing, “Gloria, in Excelsis Deo.”

Suddenly, pictures of the beloved Syria changed by war started scrolling. The very images that we had just seen with beautiful celebrations and moments of such tender joy, were now filled with bullets and rubble. Collapsed buildings covered the streets with militia behind barricades, and the Syrian anthem played solemnly in the background. Many of our Syrian friends stood up and began to sing, and a German carpenter sitting to my left began to cry. He was unashamed to show how he felt for his friends; to allow the sadness to wash over him in that same mountain of grief. At that moment, I looked around; there was barely a dry-eye in the whole congregation. Grief and longing are such a part of the human experience that they are intuitively understood across culture, age, gender, and language.

As we all walked, watery-eyed, downstairs again toward the food and celebration awaiting us, we saw friends hugging each other, comforting each other, and extremely brave souls (Syrian, German, and Canadian) opening themselves to each other. One of the Canadian women on our trip sat with several Syrian grandmas at a table. They had said it was a hard day in Syria, showed pictures of grandchildren still back in their homeland, and smiled a smile that was laced with deep sorrow.

“The Calgarians got to witness how we actually cry and laugh and sometimes mourn and often eat, dance and celebrate together as ONE group. This is very exciting because it takes away the fear of the unknown, which leads to so much conflict in this country.” said Frank Bonkowski, pastor of the Bad Segeberg Church of God.

With so much fear and misunderstanding as the backdrop, it’s difficult to expect an outcome that would promote unity and understanding. But getting to know someone can have that affect on a person. They’re not the “other,” they become part of “us.”

In one story we heard, a young man had owned an electronics shop and in walked the most beautiful girl he’d ever seen. He liked her instantly, but she wouldn’t give him the time of day. He was a muslim, and she was a Christian. And she knew her faith was everything to her and was unwilling to give that up, even for a charming shop-owner. In Iran, one is not allowed to proselytize for the Christian faith, so she knew it was pretty impossible that he would become a Christian.

One day, she wore a little gold cross at the end of a chain around her neck, and four muslim men interpreted that as her trying to make converts to the Christian faith. They went to attack her, not realizing that the shop-owner would come to her rescue. He fought them off, and has a scar where he was stabbed in his right hand to prove it. After that, she decided to get to know him a bit better. He was introduced to Jesus through her, and did, in fact, become a Christian. They were married, and then had to flee the country because of their faith.

On the Sunday that we were with them, they were both baptized in the lake just down the road from the church. She came up out of the water, and began to cry. I could overhear one German, who knew them well, say, “This is such a dream for her.” The moment was so sweet and tender. One older German man, who had been teaching them German for the previous 4 weeks, was asked to say the blessing over their baptism. The couple call him, “Papa.” And he himself has been transformed by knowing this young couple, becoming more gentle and generous than he

ever thought possible. It is true that the Christian faith community can be one’s family. And the symbol of this couple’s baptism was not lost on the community in Bad Segeberg — a new start, a fresh beginning, a new family, a new “us.” Not only in faith, but for their life in Germany as well.

Many times the impact of this kind of mission trip can be very difficult to quantify. After creating such deep friendships in such a short time, it can feel like ripping a bandaid off a wound when it comes to saying goodbyes. Those friendships start to heal cracks in each of us we didn't even know we're there — a gap in understanding, or a perspective that was missing. And suddenly, with the separation, we see our lacking and at the same time feel more whole and have more compassion than before we met. After spending a week with others unlike ourselves (and yet eerily similar to ourselves) it can reveal to us our own brokenness and flawed perspectives. It can also provide a powerful platform of experience from which to speak to our own circles of influence upon return home. Sometimes, this sort of trip can be a catalyst for other events in the life of the local congregation. Sometimes, the ripple effects of the encouragement and learning (on both sides) are not realized until years later. But one thing is certain, each person was changed by this experience. The unknown became known, and the “other” became part of “us.” If only we would have the grace to extend our sense of welcome further. I am hopeful that the broader church can still do this. 

New 3W Missionaries: Introducing the De Franciscos

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We are very excited to announce that Alejandro and Carmen De Francisco are joining the 3W Team to serve as missionaries to Spain, as well as assisting us in Europe and the Middle East. The De Francisco's will be starting the Church of God in Spain and planting a congregation in Madrid. They have a vision to plant a network of healthy, self-sustaining, self-replicating congregations across Spain. Along the way, they will be raising up and training leaders for these congregations and making sure this network of churches will be fully integrated into the fellowship of the Church of God across the region. The De Franciscos will also serve across the Europe and Middle East region as the Three Worlds team’s consultants for healthy church plants.

Alejandro was born in Cuba, growing up as an atheist under Cuba’s communist regime. Carmen, born into a devout Jehovah’s Witness family, grew up as a Sandinista in Nicaragua. Their paths crossed in the 1980s when both received university scholarships to study in the Soviet Union, he for a degree in physics and mathematics and she for a degree in Russian language and literature. The couple eventually sought political asylum in Spain, where Alejandro’s father was living, later immigrating to Miami in the United States in 1991.

For the next ten years they served in that church as lay leaders, growing in faith. Alejandro found enormous success as the art director of the Latin American edition of PC Magazine and later PC World. But in 2001, God brought a new calling, one that caused them to leave everything behind to plant a Hispanic church in Tampa, Florida, alongside Oak Grove Church of God. And so Alejandro and Carmen stepped out in faith into what has now been fifteen years of planting Hispanic churches throughout Florida, including ten years on staff with Florida Church of God Ministries.

As Global Strategy missionaries, you ca support them and the church-plant in Spain by giving now online at http://chogglobal.org/living-link-donations/#defrancisco. You can also mail a check to Church of God Ministries, Box 2420, Anderson, IN 46018, with De Francisco, Project # 42.10097 in the memo line. To learn more about the ministry of the De Franciscos and how you can support them financially and in prayer, contact Debbie Taylor at DTaylor@chog.org or 765-648-2129.

The 6 Toughest Adjustments for New Missionaries

The life of a missionary can seem very exotic and exciting.  It often is; but it is also one of the  most stressful jobs in the world.  What could possibly be stressful?  Try this:  Constant fundraising pressure, low salaries, never being able to just live in your own language, being on the road constantly, dealing with cultural differences, watching your children have challenges in foreign school systems, separation from family and loved ones, living or traveling in high-risk locations where danger is always present, the pressure to prove you are worth the money to your donors, constant high-intensity people interaction (across cultures no less), and relentless Spiritual Warfare.  These are just some of the examples that make being a missionary, a very hard job. High rates of depression, spiritual dryness, marriage problems, and dropping out of missionary service can be attributed to these factors.  It is far different than visiting a country for a few days, weeks, months, or even a couple of years.  It alters your life permanently and changes you and your kids forever.  

But there are 6 particularly difficult things about the job that require a maximum paradigm shift for new missionaries; especially couples.  Being able to make the adjustments to these six different ways of living can mean the difference between staying on the field and leaving prematurely and burnt-out--even horribly wounded.  

1) No routine is the new routine   

We often get asked, "What does your typical day look like?"  That question is usually as impossible to answer as "Where are you from?"  Nothing is less routine than the life of a missionary.  We could be doing ministry one day, traveling to mission-fields the next, catching up on budgets and paperwork another day, and communicating with donors on yet another day.  We could be hosting a group for a week or two on end, or stuck at the offices of foreign governments trying to get our paperwork straightened out.  Then there's the constant need to update through newsletters, Facebook, Twitter, and Skype so that donors feel like they know what you are doing.  Once every few years, we have to completely upend our life and spend 6 months or a year on the road visiting a different church in North America every 4 days or so.  It never stops.  Life is never routine on the mission-field for most missionaries. Your life of predictable, comforting routines is over.  

How to survive #1:  We have to give up hopes of normalcy.  For most of us, it will never happen. Life is always chaotic and unpredictable.  The highs will be high, the lows will be very low.  And it will always be like that.  So, a life of mini-routines has to be established.  It could mean always trying to have dinner as a family (when at home), or taking a predictable family vacation together at a set-time every year.  Exercise, quiet time, and meditation/prayer will be vital to keeping sane. But overall, the expectation for the normal life has to be dropped.

2) It’s not a job for individuals; it’s a family job.

For some people, it's important that they are viewed as an individual that is a successful professional in their own right.  But being a married missionary means that my job and "my career" becomes "our job" and "our career."  The amount of things that have to be done are too much for one person, and your life and work are interwoven and overlaps in hundreds of ways.  One of you may have to always do the newsletter and social media, while the other plans the logistics of a work-camp.  Then you both have to host the work-camp and that could involve or displace your children!  The couple will always be linked to each other and viewed as "one unit."  We even call missionaries, "units," because you are never really hired as an individual.  You are always a couple, indeed a whole family (if kids are involved) that will be doing the job together.  

How to survive #2:  Understand that this is not the job for you if you need space from your spouse and want to be a professional in your own right.  Unless, you have very separate jobs, which is very rare, your life will have to be integrated with that of your spouse.  Make sure that specific job duties are clear and play to each others' strengths.  Learn to communicate extremely well as a couple and make sure that you find ways to give each other space, even if that space is severely limited.  

3) Your communication as a couple will grow or decline exponentially on the mission-field.

Being a missionary can be very hard on marriages.  The success of the missionary couple will often come down to how well the two communicate with each other.  Everything has to be processed:  the ministry, the fundraising, the managing of finances, communication with the home office and supervisors, how to raise the kids internationally, and many other things will test a couple's ability to make decisions and plans together.  The pressure of this will either give you a very close marriage based on excellent communication or will break down the couple's friendship and communication.  You will get much better or much worse at communicating as a couple.  

How to survive #3:  Work on your communication skills and develop your emotional-intelligence (E.Q.).  Personality assessments can be extremely helpful in understanding the many subtle differences that you and your spouse may have.  And make sure to pray together and for each other.  

4) It’s always a sacrifice:  You lose a lot!  

Yes, you do get to have some pretty exciting experiences and have a front-row seat to what God is doing in the world.  But as a missionary, you lose a lot.  Salaries are low, your family will be far away and may be very bitter that you are choosing to raise the grandkids overseas.  You may never fully fit-in to your home culture again (if you are long-term), and your children will not have the same affinity for your home country as you do if they genuinely grow up on the mission-field. Neither is it a glorified job, or even one that people will understand very well.  Your physical health may take a real hit from the constant high-level of stress.  And your health may never be normal again.  

How to survive #4:  Remember the quote from Jim Elliot, "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep, to gain what he cannot lose."  We don't do the job for glory, safety, or comfort.  We do it because we have a call to serve God; and there is a high cost to that call.  Being a servant is not glorious or showy.  And Nobody should expect it to be easy. You truly lay down your life.  

5) Whatever your weaknesses are;  the mission-field exposes them quickly.  

Are you a worrier, over-confident, temperamental, prone to anxiety, sensitive to temptation, have anger-management issues, dependent on security, co-dependent on someone, afraid of suffering and sickness, lazy about spiritual disciplines, in a shaky marriage?  Whatever your weaknesses are, it will be quickly exposed on the mission-field and Satan, plus the stress of the job, will continually poke your sensitive spots.  You will need to go through a massive process of refinement, or you will succumb to your weaknesses over time.  

How to survive #5:  Make sure that you are a self-aware person. Honestly, identify your strengths, weaknesses, and ask others to help you to honestly see yourself.  Take personality assessments, and reflect on the things that have tripped you up in life.  Counseling can be very helpful.  Pray that God will reveal to you areas where you need guidance.  

6) The nebulousness of the job

How do you measure success on the mission-field?  Usually people want baptisms, converts, or exciting projects like feeding the poor or helping orphans ("more photos please!")  But many of us do not have jobs that can be so easily quantifiable.  Furthermore, some of us are called to sow, others to water, others to reap the harvest.  God decides that; we don't.  For many people, the nebulousness of the job becomes a very stressful part of the life.  "Am I really making a difference?" "Have I achieved enough?"  "Was today productive?"  "What if my ministry doesn't last or the new Christians don't make it?"  "What did I do today that shows I am making a difference?" "What about all the things I do that don't make it in the newsletter?"  "Will anybody know or care?"  Especially for those coming from corporate jobs where targets and goals are so easily measurable or jobs where tasks are clear and routine, the missionary life can be a killer.  

How to survive #6:  For most missionaries, the job is always out of our control and tasks and success can be very random.  "Success" is truly hard to measure and it's all God's work anyway.  It is not a job for people that need that kind of constant affirmation and public validation.  One has to take the job in faith that God is using your sacrifice to make a difference in the Kingdom.   And the question becomes, "Do you have a call?" Not a mystical, spiritual voice from God appearing, but rather, is something in you making you feel like this job is something you must do.  That you won't feel released by walking away from it?  The answer needs to be "yes," or you are in real trouble.  

Before you dive into missionary life, think about these 6 paradigm shifts that will require difficult adjustments. If you are already on the mission-field, hopefully this essay will help make sense of why it can feel so challenging and how to respond.  Most of us would not give up our experiences as missionaries for the world (literally).  But, it truly is a call and a sacrifice.  Be wise, alert, and humble and you can not just survive, but thrive.  

Is Christian Persecution/Genocide Real?

Is Christian Persecution as bad as some are saying world and is Christian Genocide really happening?

The short answer is "yes."  We are currently living in a time of global Christian growth, but also of ramped up Christian persecution.  A 2011 Pew Forum study found that Christianity is the most persecuted religion in the world with problems in 130 countries (The U.S.A. is not one of them, sorry to disappoint).  In the Middle East, the number of Christians has dropped to just .06% of the World's total.  That is a 20% decrease in the last 100 years in an area that was once the center of Global Christianity before it shifted to the West. In the world today, there is both Hard Persecution and Soft Persecution.  Both make life very difficult for Christians.

Hard persecution entails blatant attempts to kill, torture, and extinguish Christians and their churches.  In some countries, like North Korea, this has been going on for decades.  The persecution is brutal and an entire family and all their relatives will be wiped out if one Bible is found hidden in a home.  Christians in North Korea are killed or languish in the world's worst and most brutal prison camps.  "Genocide" is a strong word, but ISIS in Iraq and Syria have a scorched earth policy.  Unlike Al-Qaeda, they decided that they would establish a Caliphate that ruled by terror intentionally and that meant wiping out other religions and Islamic sects.  Christian communities are being decimated in Iraq and Syria.  

The bombing of Christians in South Sudan is both anti-Christian and ethnic.  We see the same thing in northern Nigeria.  Pakistan and Bangladesh are both places where Christians are routinely attacked violently just for being Christian.  There are many cases of Hard Persecution currently around the world.

But there are also places that are much more subtle in their way of persecuting Christians.  It may involve making it near impossible to open churches, or keep buildings open.  It may be changes in laws that make it hard to register Christian communities.  In some countries, you may not be considered employable if you are a Christian.  "Christians Need Not Apply" can literally be found on the door.  Just earning a living can be difficult in some of these countries if you are a Christian. Or Christians may be spied on or monitored at all times.  Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and surprisingly, even Western Europe have places where things are intentionally made difficult for Christians.  Try opening a church, getting a building permit, registering a denomination, opening a bank account etc.  It can all be made very difficult in these countries where the goal is to eradicate Christianity under the world's radar.

India is currently an example of a country that practices both Hard and Soft persecution.  Under Prime Minister Narenda Modi, India is passing laws making it more difficult for Christian missionaries to enter the country.  Not adverse to stoking Nationalism, Modi encourages (or looks the other way) as fundamentalist Hindu groups plan the complete eradication of Islam and Christianity.  Overtly, there are Christian villages, churches, and pastors routinely attacked throughout the country.  India's many religions have co-existed remarkably harmoniously in the world's largest Democracy, but that is now being challenged and Christians are targets.  

As for the United States, what Christians here are experiencing is a loss of privilege and blind-trust in their intentions.  That is not the same as Christian persecution.  As one who has spent times in truly persecuted communities around the world, it rings very hollow when Americans claim that they are oppressed.  Even in England things are more difficult for churches.  All American religious groups have tremendous freedoms and options, and that is thankfully preserved because of its clear separation of church and state.  It is these other nations where church and state co-mingle and create persecution and kill the dynamism of religion where persecution truly exists.  Other countries should be so lucky as to have America's "persecution" problems.  

Believe it or not, civilizations (even Western Civilization and its secularism) owe a lot to religion.  The persecution of Christians or any other religious group does not help the world.  While that is a subject for another day, what is clear is that many innocents are being hurt, terrorized or killed. Christian persecution is real and it is a danger to the world entire.  It behooves Christians to never themselves be the ones doing the persecuting and stand by those that are persecuted.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Rise of Trump, Populism, and Global Political Chaos

As of this writing, it looks like Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton will be the most likely nominees for the general election for President of the United States.  Maybe not.  Regardless of whether these two make it to the general election or not, there will be plenty of people that feel angry, left-out, and as though politics has failed them when the eventual winner is announced.  That much is inevitable.  The bigger, more nuanced (and thus ignored story) is that our ever-integrating, globalized world is becoming more complicated than our simple, slow-moving, non-progressive political governments can handle.  Whether it is the well-established countries like the United States, Germany, or the U.K., or transitioning emerging nations like China, Brazil, and India, or marginalized laggards like Iran and North Korea--globalization is presenting problems that our political systems cannot solve rapidly.  What we do have is anger, the internet, and media.  In many ways, the rise of Donald Trump exemplifies a global problem.

In my 2006 book, "Passport of Faith" I wrote the following:

"Each period of hyperglobalization demands a radical amount of change and adaptation.  New world orders form that seemingly connect the world together.  In these periods, people and governments turn to religion, nationalism, and ideology to help them cope with change....this can be a counteraction to globalization." (p.277)  

I wrote that the most likely visible symptoms would be: Islamic terrorism, poor economic choices by global powers (Europe, the United States, and China), shaky alliances, great power rivalries, an extreme divide between Rich and poor, and nationalism (p. 271-278).

Today, 10 years later, all of this is visible, whether through the continued expansion of ISIS, the stock market collapse in China, the E.U.'s anemic growth and political turmoil, renewed rivalries between the USA and Russia, the huge wealth gap between rich and poor everywhere, and the rising nationalism visible in places as diverse as Hungary, France, India, China, and the United States.

TRUMP AS THE MODEL OF POPULISM

All of this may best be exemplified by Donald Trump, a billionaire who openly flaunts gaming the political and financial system.  He bought politicians and took advantage of America's huge corporate welfare state through generous bankruptcy laws.  A Republican, he has mostly espoused Democratic political ideas in his life and still today, he  does not model conservative moral values through his language and behavior, has little awareness of religion, and is capable of changing his position on most any subject even within a single interview.  None of this matters, however, because he challenges the political system promising that the regular man will take back control of the government (and thus be able to find easy solutions for this complicated, fast-changing, globalized world).  That is populism, and there are variations of Trump in Turkey, France, the Netherlands, India, and many other countries.  They promise and overthrow of the current order and promise a return to happier times.  They are vague on solutions, but convince the people that it can be done.  That is enough for them; forget the contradictions. They look the other way because it feels good to be validated.

What Trump, ISIS, and many other individuals and movements have are not coherent ideas or actual solutions, but cheap mass communication.  It is now easy to promise a perfect Islamic Caliphate (or a United States that closes its borders to its biggest trading partners but somehow stays wealthy), to a large group of people around the world and you can develop a following.  If the Republicans had not started with 19 candidates, and were a party based on conservative political philosophy as opposed to populist ideology, Trump would not have made it far in the political race.  His actual positions and ideas are totally incoherent and don't really consistently represent anyone but Donald Trump himself.  But because the party has become a source of constant anger, the  most effective, angry communicator with the most air-time was inevitably going to come in first.  Compared to Trump, other potential populists looked boring.  

What quickly happens is that the anger and promises of solutions become more important than the actual logic and plausibility of what the populist is saying.  Consequently, Trump can suggest insane things like cutting off trade with China and Japan (two countries in severe economic turmoil that actually bring a lot of profit and even open factories in the United States), or deporting millions of people (which would not only be logistically impossible and economically damaging, but would be an national and international embarrassment).  You can hold competing views that cancel each other out:  "We should get out of the Middle East.  I said it was a mistake."  "I will bomb the hell out of ISIS."  You can even behave poorly by making fun of a disabled-person, make jokes about menstruation or killing members of the free press."  In Trump's case, you can even talk about "Making America Great" while suggesting things that would trample on the Constitution.  None of it matters.  What matters is guaranteeing a simple solution:  "You will have high wages" (even though the global economy has fundamentally changed).  "We will win all wars and never face terrorism ever," (even though it's impossible to actually stop random acts of terrorism).  "We will never have to be dependent on immigrants ever again" (even though borders can never really be completely guarded, and immigrants create start-ups, start businesses, and do jobs locals won't do. A lack of immigrants is actually the greatest pre-cursor to the downfall of a civilization).

A Need to Adapt to Seismic Shifts

The problem is that neither China, India, the United States, the European Union countries, nor ISIS, nor any other political movement in the world will be able to truly respond to the 21st Century challenges without a massive amount of painful adaptation.  China is in an economic free-fall.  The government of the Chinese Communist Party will play the part of Trump and increase military tensions with its Asian neighbors, create show-trials and purge its wealthy, and call on the people to love China above all else.  Modi will do it through Hindusim and prejudice.  ISIS through the promise of a new golden era of the Caliphate.  U.K. leaders may do it by leaving the E.U.  Hungarian leaders by building a fence around the entire country.  Greek leaders by embracing Marxism.

But populism reduces problems to a level so simplistic that it is useless.  The reality is that China is in trouble and has to get beyond simple manufacturing and create a domestic market that consumes instead of saves.  Furthermore, China will have to learn to compete with Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Vietnam, and other nations that are going through the same transition into cheap manufacturing that led to their rise.  There is no easy solution. Neither the USA nor China can prevent other countries from wanting what they have.  Neither is it a zero sum game (China wins-USA loses).

Brazil and India, like China, are going to have to respond to the political demands of the emerging wealthy and middle-class that globalization has created.  Because the more upward mobility there is, the more the citizens demand their governments to open up in transparency and efficiency.

The United States will have to re-invent its economy so that local communities drive innovation and commerce, while government pays off its two credit card wars, rebuilds the nation's infrastructure, and reforms the financial system.  It also means, Americans are going to have to self-educate themselves, develop new skills, go to trade schools and self-invent jobs that can't be outsourced to computers, robots, or cheap labor countries.  It will be painful because this is a seismic shift.  Be wary of the populists who tell you that it is as easy as voting for a Democrat, a Republican, for Islam or Evangelical Christianity, or for Marxism or hyper-Capitalism.  Sorry no easy answers that avoid personal responsibility and community effort.

What should the Democratic and Republican debates have been about?  Alternatives to traditional university, the danger of weak infrastructure, the challenges and benefits of automated jobs and robotics,  the role of taxation in a Democracy, the new forms of manufacturing that are emerging in America, the need for educational reform to encourage an entrepreneurial mindset:   These are issues that deal with actual adjustments that need to be made in the 21st Century.

Instead, we get simplistic discussions that demonize immigrants, calls for more expensive wars, calls (from Hillary Clinton) for more of the same, and belligerence toward our greatest trading partners.  None of this deals with the core issues, none of this will help the people who believe they are being saved and heard.  Politics (especially under the baby-boomers), is now extremely dualistic, hates nuance, and views cordiality and working together with contempt.  Until this generation that grew up immersed in counter-cultural cynicism is truly dis-empowered, there will be lots of room for Trumps, Clintons, and Palins.  

A Bumpy Road Ahead

Because the United States is inherently entrepreneurial, shockingly self-reflective, and addicted to problem-solving, fifteen years from now, the United States will have re-invented manufacturing, dominate in global trade, and punished and shamed its populists.  But for now, the US, Europe, China, India, and many other places around the world will be addicted to easy answers and choosing one incomplete side over the other incomplete side.  In an age of extreme democracy where Facebook users make up one of the largest "countries" in the world and where hatred and simplistic thoughts can be globally transmitted in a second, the irony is that the long-term solution will only come from the bottom-up, when individuals demand more of themselves, thus demanding more of their government representatives.  The problem is not really Trump.  The problem is us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Tribute to Sharon Skaggs

The longer I live, the more I think life boils down to two things:  strength of character and love.  

We lost our Mom suddenly and unexpectedly this past week, and more than anyone I have ever met; Sharon Skaggs exemplified these two things.  Her strong character meant that she was exactly who you thought she was, and who she said she was.  There was no disparity between the public Sharon and the private Sharon.  The kind, graceful, gracious, smiling Sharon that you saw in public, was exactly who she was behind closed doors.  And as far as love is concerned, she had no enemies and showed love to all equally regardless of their status.  Sharon, unlike most of us, was who she needed to be every day in the exact same way. 

Although she was a baby-boomer, born in 1947, she was really more like someone from “the Greatest Generation.”  She shunned showiness, she cared not for material things, she prized loyalty and consistency, and she didn’t know “rock” from “roll.”  She missed Woodstock, but she was born on a different farm in South Dakota to very godly Germanic farmers who believed in hard work, godliness, and keeping true to your word.  There was no bragging or pursuing success for personal gain; it was all about serving others and doing it with a smile.

Sharon’s smile may be the thing most remembered about her.  She was always smiling to everyone equally.  It was a big, beautiful smile that her daughter Jamie inherited.  The above picture (taken by Keli Oldham on Sharon’s last trip to Egypt) is perhaps one of the only photos you can find where she was not smiling.  She never complained about anything, including the loss of her husband to cancer in 1993, and she was always an optimist.  That optimism would serve her well working with troubled youth in Washington State at a ranch, or as a missionary for 10 years in Cairo, Egypt enduring the chaos of the Sadat assassination in 1981 and many other trials that would come her family’s way.  She raised two children, Byron and Jamie, to have the highest moral integrity, and she blessed people throughout the five continents that she traveled and worked in throughout her life.  

She was an administrative genius.  She was great with numbers and excellent at administration—especially dealing with complicated, detailed issues.  These skills helped her rise in the Church of God mission-agency to the highest levels where she worked until she retired.  Sharon was a wealth of knowledge on extremely complicated matters having to do with the CHOG’s international work.  There were complicated histories, numerous policies, the challenges of dealing with different governments and red tape, and yes; an infinite amount of church politics to navigate.  In addition to that, there were lots of numbers and accounts to master and difficult people to work with.  The reality of all of that was hidden behind the warm smile and the unflappable external demeanor.  The amount of knowledge regarding the Church of God’s international efforts that has now passed away along with Sharon is staggering.  It is lost knowledge and it is not replaceable.  She knew THAT much!  One of the most knowledgeable people on the subject of the International Church of God just passed away and she was so humble, some think she was never anything more than an administrator.  

I honestly do not believe the mission-agency would exist if it were not for Sharon Skaggs.  There were years upon years in which she put in infinitely long work-days beginning at 5:00AM and leaving at 12AM.  For years, she was the first to arrive and the last to leave the office.  We worried that she was literally working herself to death.  We had to beg her to slow down for fear of losing her.  The stress was extremely intense, in what is already one of the most stressful jobs in the world.  Very few people knew about all she endured and the amount of time and effort she made to keep things running in difficult times.  It was often  a very thankless job, but she never expressed bitterness or sought recognition.  When she was finally honored upon her retirement, she had to be tricked into it and was surprised to find both Jamie and Byron there to celebrate her decades of hard-work.  How much did those years of extreme stress age her body, I now wonder?  And how many said “thanks?”  

Perhaps it’s a moot point, because Sharon could never take a compliment.  Like her parents, you did what you had to do, and you didn’t seek recognition.  But she certainly could give compliments.  From troubled youth, to hurting widows, to everyone in between—Sharon was a smile, a friend, a non-judgmental comforter.  She was drawn to service, even in retirement.  At Children of Promise, she was an administrative miracle worker—as always.  She loved to volunteer at the Park Place Church of God food pantry, and upon moving back to the Pacific Northwest, she was already getting put on mission-committees and finding places to help others.  She couldn’t sit still. She had to help others and be useful.  

 Fortunately, she made some key international trips in her final couple of years.  We were able to spend two holidays with her:  one in Ireland and one in the Greek Isles.  Both times, she loved being able to sit back and let us do all the planning and work.  She deserved it.  Little did we know that this would be our last time with her on holiday.  She also was able to see Byron and his family in Egypt as well as visit her dearest friends in Cairo.  Once again, who knew that it was a farewell?  

For us, the loss is huge.  Sharon was the fourth member of our family.  No matter where we lived:  Hong Kong, New Haven, Berlin, the Black Forest—she found a way to be there.  Every birthday and anniversary remembered, every accomplishment celebrated, every grandkid loved to the extreme.  She was our biggest fan; providing the unconditional love that children need from their parents.  After her husband Russ died, she poured her life into work, but it was always her family that mattered most.  Her parents, her in-laws, her brothers and sisters, her kids and grandkids—she would drop everything to tend to their needs.  They were her pride and joy.  Her last Facebook post was of her grandkids.  How very appropriate and unsurprising.

I noticed that it’s hard for anyone to talk about Sharon without talking about themselves.  That's because she always made the conversation about you, your accomplishments, what made you special.  She was the embodiment of humility.  But to say she was a simple farm girl misses the complicated life that she led.  It was her strength of character and her love that made it all seem so simple, so modest, so humble.  Only those who knew her very well knew the extent of her experience,  talents and genius.  It was not a theoretical knowledge which can easily be gained from books:  it was concrete knowledge borne from massive international experience.  

That knowledge was most apparent when she helped hurting missionaries—which was her true passion.  Book knowledge and academic knowledge were nothing compared to the intimate knowledge that Sharon brought regarding life on the mission-field—the way it actually is, not the way we imagine it to be.  Many deeply wounded people found their healing in conversations with Sharon.  Whether it was the pain of losing a parent while serving overseas, or having problems adjusting to a difficult foreign culture, or missing your favorite American food—nothing was belittled by Sharon.  Yes, she knew the intricacies and complications of mission-fields, but she will be most remembered for understanding the intricacies and complicated lives of missionaries and those who live and work overseas.  Yet another treasure of hers that we have now lost, and will not easily be replaced.  

I’ll never forget when I first met Sharon.  She was intimidating, believe it or not.  Her husband Russ was in the final stages of cancer and Sharon was dealing with it all with such dignity, class and grace I was completely stunned.  There were times I would actually watch her, completely speechless, and in complete awe of her strength in that situation.  I had just nursed my own mother through cancer and was reliving it through Jamie’s experience, and here was this woman, Sharon, who was completely in control.  I’m sure there was, crying and breaking down—but I never saw that.  I saw her 100% committed to the task at hand—carrying for her dying husband and her family.  It took me years to feel comfortable around her after that impressive display.  She was on another level.  

Of course, in time, she did become my mother and filled that enormous hole in my life.  I’m sure she knew she filled that, although we never talked about it.  I liked to tease her, especially on Facebook, about her meth addiction, her penchant for cocaine, her drinking, and her stints in rehab.  It was all irony, of course.  She was the most controlled, disciplined person any of us had ever met.  And she was the most dependable person we ever met.  Mom.  

We just received mail from her here in Germany.  She sent it the day before she died, most likely.  It was filled with things we needed, things she was helping us with, a Time Magazine for us with Angela Merkel on the cover (and a note), plus a personal card—the contents of which will remain cherished and private.  That is what I will miss the most, how she was always there.  How after my parents were long gone, through death or geographically removed from my life—she stepped in and became the parent I needed daily.  I will miss how committed she was to her grandson and how she played the role of the only constant relative he had in his young life.  I will miss how natural it felt to have her in our home, in our family, in our life.  But what I will miss the most is watching her relationship with Jamie.  How close they were, how much alike they are, what great girlfriends they were to each other, and how they shared the same sensibility, talents, personality, and smile .  Their friendship was so much fun to watch and she was so very proud of Jamie.  I cannot imagine them apart.  I do not want to imagine them apart.  That is what hurts me the most.

Of course, life for Sharon was never the same since Russ died.  But there was never an ounce of self-pity or acting lost.  My only comfort is that her separation from him no longer exists.  That the stresses, trials, and disappointments of this world no longer matter.  She leaves a massive hole in our lives that will never be replaced.  Ever.  There was only one Sharon.  So graceful, so kind, so very serious, and so quick to smile.  She is our beloved mother who earned that title not just biologically or through marriage, but through love and character.  She lives in us and is with us always.  And although she could never take a compliment, I pray that her ears are ringing today with this eternal message:  “Well done, good and faithful servant.”  Well done, indeed.  We will love you always.  

Remembering Sharon Skaggs

sharon.jpg

Sharon E. Skaggs

January 9, 1947 – January 8, 2016

 

Sharon Elaine Skaggs passed away unexpectedly in Salem, Oregon on Friday, January 8, 2016. Born to Ed and Marilyn Gossen on January 9, 1947, she lived a full life characterized by her service to others. Sharon grew up on a farm in South Dakota and, after graduating from Warner Pacific College in Portland, Oregon, financially managed The Double K Ranch, a non-profit organization providing alternative care to troubled teens in Washington State. From 1981 - 1991 she and her family lived in Cairo, Egypt serving the church community throughout Egypt. She was a loving caretaker and primary support for her late husband in his battle with cancer from 1988-1993. After his passing, Sharon continued serving others, working in missionary care through Global Missions (now Global Strategy) of Church of God Ministries in Anderson, Indiana. She served in many roles including Living Link Coordinator, Director of Personnel and head of Finance and retired in 2011, having served the organization and the greater church for 30 years. Sharon served on the Children of Promise Board of Directors for 15 years.  She also served on the staff of Children of Promise for much of 2015.  Even in retirement, Sharon was actively involved with the local food pantry and traveled internationally as a volunteer for Children of Promise.  Sharon recently moved to Salem, Oregon to be closer to family. She had already begun to serve in another local food pantry and anticipated more international travels.

Sharon is preceded in death by her husband, Russell Skaggs, parents, Edwin and Marilyn Gossen and in-laws, Wilbur and Evelyn Skaggs.

She is survived by her son and wife, Byron and Jennifer Skaggs of Cairo, Egypt and daughter and husband, Jamie and Patrick Nachtigall of Badenweiler, Germany as well as three grandchildren, Jonathan and Aubrianna Skaggs, Marco Nachtigall, five sisters and brother, spouses, sister-in-law and numerous nieces and nephews.

 Occasions to celebrate the life and legacy of Sharon Skaggs:

Memorial Service: Saturday, February 6,1:00 pm at Mt. Scott Church of God, 10603 SE Henderson Street, Portland, OR

Memorial Service: Monday, February 8, 1:00 pm at Park Place Church of God, 501 College Drive, Anderson, IN; Visitation following in Bessie Byrum Lounge

 Cards for the family may be sent to: 1416 Cunningham Ln S; Salem, OR 97302 USA

In lieu of flowers, the family encourages memorial gifts to the organizations Sharon loved and to which she committed her own time and resources:

 Children of Promise

P. O. Box 2316, Anderson, IN 46018 USA

Online giving: http://www.echildrenofpromise.org/

 

Park Place Church of God

Designate: Park Place Food Pantry

501 College Dr, Anderson, IN 46012 USA

 

Global Strategy, Church of God Ministries

Sharon Skaggs Memorial Contribution – for the sending of new missionaries

P.O. Box 2420, Anderson, IN 46018 USA

Online giving: https://cgm.formstack.com/forms/cgm_gm_single  (drop down menu at bottom)

10th Annual Patty Awards: Top 10 Books of 2015

It's time for the 10th Annual Patty Awards, where I give out the awards for the best books I've read in 2015.  All of the big stars are walking onto the Red Carpet.  Is that Meeno Pelucci of "Voyagers" fame?  Look, it's Don Rickles and Sally Struthers!  And there's Nancy McKeon of "the Facts of Life."  Truly an astonishing Red Carpet Crowd.  

Well, it was a very eclectic reading year full of really good books.  There was no real theme this year, it was a hodgepodge of things with an attempt on my part to read more fiction.  And so we begin:

10)  The Terror by Dan Simmons.  A novel about a maritime Arctic expedition that goes horribly wrong in the mid-1800's.  Based on real experiences of arctic explorers, this is a novel about a supernatural enemy, and even more frightening, the unbelievable hardship caused by being stranded in Arctic conditions for years aboard a foul ship.  Very entertaining and surprisingly educational about life at sea.  The amount of suffering these sailors endured in those voyages is amazing.    

9) Hammer of the Gods: The Led Zeppelin Saga by Stephen Davies (408 pages):  A classic rock biography of the life and decadent times of Led Zeppelin.   Obviously for hard-core Zep fans only, and even then, proceed with caution. 

8)  China's Second Continent:  How a Million Migrants are Building a New Empire in Africa by Howard W. French (269 pages).  An extremely well-done look at Chinese investment in African resources, land, and infrastructure.  By traveling to various parts of Africa, French fleshes out how the new Chinese influence and "colonization" looks very different from region to region and country to country.  Excellent in its balanced and nuanced view of China's influence in Africa. Both the positive sides and the negative sides of China's influence are exposed. A crackin' read!

7) A Wind in the House of Islam by David Garrison (Kindle version).  The largest global survey of Islamic people groups and their mass conversions to Christianity.  Garrison shares true stories from every part of the Islamic World of Muslims turning to Christianity at an unprecedented rate.  The number of conversions and Islamic people groups choosing Christianity over Islam has been exploding since 9/11.  A highly-recommended overview of something you never hear about:  The growth of Christianity and the shrinking of Islam in the Muslim world.

6)  The Epic of Eden by Sandra L. Richter (259 pages). The Old Testament in the Bible is very misunderstood, misinterpreted, and complicated.  Much of this is due to the fact that this is Ancient Hebrew literature which is concerned with the issues, styles, language, and genres of Hebrew Literature, not Western-style literature.  This is a Freshman-level introductory book to the Old Testament that does an excellent job of introducing the main themes of the Old Testament in a way that is very easy to understand and helps it to all make sense.  

5)  The Sicilian by Mario Puzo (Kindle version).  A story that takes place between "The Godfather I" and "The Godfather II" while Michael Corleone is hiding in Sicily after avenging his father's shooting.  The story revolves around a Robin Hood-like bandit causing trouble for the Sicilian Mafia in the 1940's.  Full of action, but also a fascinating look at the very unique Sicilian culture. Sicily is colorful and mysterious, and this book is a great way to learn about it.

4)  The Almost Absolutely Nearly Perfect People: The Truth About the Nordic Miracle by Michael Booth (393 pages).  I absolutely loved this book that seeks to find whether the Socialist, Democratic Scandinavian countries (Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Iceland) are really as great as people think. Booth is a British journalist that lives in Denmark who is not only a great writer but also very funny.  The book shows the good sides and the dark sides of each country, but overall---yes, life in Scandinavia is very good compared to the vast majority of the world's nations.  What is remarkable is not only how similar each country is, but how very different they are as well.  How history, culture, and geography shape a nation is a subject that always fascinate me, and Booth does his homework.  While he doesn't shy away from their problems:  high cost of living, divorce rates, immigration issues, etc.,--the overall picture that emerges is of societies that try very hard to provide the most important services for their people so that they are free to pursue their own goals. Everything I hoped the book would be!

3)  The Cartel by Don Winslow (Kindle version).  The sequel to one of my favorite novels of all time, "the Power of the Dog" which tracks the rise of the U.S. War on Drugs in Mexico.  An angry DEA agent and a rising drug lord face off again, but this time in an era of globalized drug trade, Los Zetas, and the anarchy of a Mexican state dominated by competing cartels.  Just as good as the first novel and based on real events that are taking place now.  It shows you what  mess the drug war is.  

2)  A Kim Jong -Il Production:  The Extraordinary True Story of a Kidnapped Filmmaker, His Star Actress, and a Young Dictator's Rise to Power" by Paul Fischer (Kindle version). Super-riveting true story of how South Korea's most famous Director and Actress were both kidnapped by Kim Jong-Il to jump start North Korea's fledgling movie industry.  As is true with any book about North Korea, reality inside the Hermit Kingdom is as bizarre as humanly possible.  The portrait of their life inside North Korea and their desire to escape is a total page-turner.  It is often hilarious to read about how absolutely poorly made North Koreans films were.  It is also tragic and frightening and, well...utterly insane. This came so close to being number one.  

AND THE WINNER IS....

1)  The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel Van Der Kolk, MD (Kindle version). Finally, a book that explains why your extended family is so screwed up and why your Uncle is crazy.  This is a must-read for anyone from a dysfunctional family, anyone who has struggled with depression, anxiety or trauma, or anyone wanting to understand where psychotherapy is headed.   Trauma could be anything from divorce, being fired at a job, or more severely sexual, emotional, or physical abuse, war,  rape, car accidents, abandonment or other life-changing traumatic moments.  Van der Kolk began studying trauma by looking at Post-Traumatic Syndrome Disorder in Vietnam veterans.  This led him on a journey to understand how traumatic events in our lives affect us psychologically and physiologically.  He explains the ways that our bodies act out under stress and how disorders develop.  He also chronicles the various ways that medics have tried to deal with this from the rise of antidepressants and SSRI's like Xanax and Prozac, to EMDR therapy, Yoga, and many other techniques.  Each chapter is divided into smaller sections so it is not a difficult book to read.  The author makes complicated subjects regarding neurology and neuroscience very easy to read.  This is a book that will give you a ton of "aha!" moments and explain a lot about you, your family, your friends, and the world we live in. I can't recommend it highly enough--especially to those that have endured significant trauma in their lives or work closely with people that have.    

Honorable Mention: 

Fate is the Hunter by Ernest Gann (383 pages):  Memoir by a pilot who worked during the rise of the airline industry when planes were just being understood and crashes were not at all uncommon.  Gann flies people, mail, and war supplies in the 1940's and sees a huge majority of his fellow pilots and co-pilots die. He has near-disaster after near-disaster as the science of aviation has not been perfected and you learn as you go.   It's a reminder that the extremely safe air travel we have today came at a huge cost.  Many accidents happened and many people died in order for corrections to be made that now enable us to fly almost without fear of anything going wrong.  

The Beast:  Riding the Rails and Dodging Narcos on the Migrant Trail by Oscar Martinez (Kindle version).  A journalist from El Salvador hangs out with Central Americans trying to get smuggled across the U.S. border.  The journey is extremely deadly as human-trafficking, drug-violence, and robbery and rape threaten migrants at every turn of the trip.  Unlike what Donald Trump suggests, the border is already extremely hard to cross and getting more difficult every year.  These true stories of people's attempts to escape the violence in their homelands is tragic.  

Biggest Disappointment:

Matterhorn:  A Novel of the Vietnam War by Karl Malantes.  A much acclaimed novel about young soldiers fighting in Vietnam and all the complex realities they have to quickly figure out in order to survive.  Technically, it's great and educational, but I just found that I didn't care about hardly any of the characters.  

Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box by the Abridger Institute.  Also very acclaimed, this books is about the importance of creating an organizational culture that has a high E.Q (emotional intelligence), which we intentionally try to do at Three Worlds here in Europe/Middle East.  I thought the book sucked however, because the whole book is based on a fictitious company that is already full of high E.Q. employees and they are trying to help their new low E.Q. employee.  This is not helpful since the vast majority of companies and organizations are filled to the brim with low E.Q. employees and bosses.  So if the point is just to say E.Q. is important organizationally, okay.  But if this book is somehow supposed to help the poor sod stuck in a low E.Q. environment, forget it.  The question is how to get the power to change it.  That is much more difficult.  

Next Year:

Well, that's it.  The big stars are heading home and the limousines are pulling out.  We'll be back next year for some more book reviews.  Up next year:  A two volume biography of Elvis Presley, a journalists look inside the NFL, A biography of Christopher Columbus, A Christian novel about a Roman Centurion, a Novel of the Civil War, and books on Russian history.  Thanks for joining us at the Patty's.  See you next time!

 

 

Announcing 3W Leadership Network

Our Three Worlds Team is very excited to announce the creation of the 3W Leadership Network which will be launched in Interlaken, Switzerland October 26th-30th, 2015 with a special Young Leaders Forum. The 3W Leadership Network will enable young Church of God leaders in the Europe/Middle East to be in constant contact and do ministry together across borders in a way that has never been done before.  It raises the level of inner-connectivity to a whole new level and will be a source of encouragement, synergy, strategy, and dynamism for the whole Europe/Middle East Church of God Region.  

1   Who will be attending the Young Leaders Forum?

The goal is for this network to be run and sustained by regional leadership.  We are inviting an initial group of young leaders from the following countries: England, France, Holland, Germany, Italy, Hungary, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Russia, Lebanon, Egypt, Morocco, Algeria, as well as the USA and Canada to begin with. The vast majority of these young leaders speak 3 to 4 languages. Nearly all of them are fluent in English. They range in age from 20 to 45. Samir Salibi of the Paris Church of God, Sarina Hennig of the Church of God in Hannover, and Laszlo Debreceni of the Church of God in Hungary will be the regional leaders of 3WLN with assistance from the 3W team.

One of the goals of 3W and of this new 3W Leadership Network is to work closely with Church of God congregations in North America as they deal with new post-Christendom realities. We hope the success of this network will have a direct impact on the Church of God globally.

2   What is the 3W Young Leaders Forum?

In a 2008-2010 global study of the Church of God commissioned by then General Director Ron Duncan (Mosaic), it was found that three key challenges the Church of God faces in almost every Church of God country in the world are: 1) Lack of young people in church and in ministry. 2) A lack of support for pastors and people in ministry under the age of 35 and 3) A lack of inner-connectivity and extreme isolation due to the Church of God’s emphasis on autonomy and its lack of functioning structures to bring direction, vision and unity.

In the 21st Century, it is vital that there be new generations emerging in ministry, young people filling our churches, and clear ways for the church to create cross-cultural synergy.  Mechanisms have to be created to sustain a higher level of networking and coordination.

Our Three Worlds team desires to create the first ever multi-national network of CHOG leaders under the age of 45. The 3WLN (Three Worlds Leadership Network) will encompass 16 countries in the Europe/Middle East and bring together all key youth leaders biennially (for training, encouragement, and synergistic regional strategizing). The network will be a source of camaraderie, synergy, ideas, and support. Camaraderie is particularly important and isolation is particularly deadly. In many of our countries, the percentage of Evangelical Christians is between .25% and 4%. Many of our young people have never been in a room with more than 5 or 10 Evangelical Christian youth. Events that bring them together are enormously inspirational and healing in a way that North American, Latin America, and African Christians cannot understand because the European and Middle Eastern cultures are so deeply secular and/or hostile to Christianity. The question is whether this effort can become exponential and sustained over the long term, and 3WLN is meant to do that for this region.

3   Where is the Forum? 

The first meeting is planned Monday, October 25th – Friday October, 30th at the Credo Center in Interlaken, Switzerland.  This location is ideal for the initial event as it allows everyone to meet and stay together in one central location. Many of the young leaders are able to drive to Switzerland, saving on transportation costs. Others will have low-cost carrier options into Zurich, Basel or Bern. The Forum will be a platform for establishing further interconnectivity and regular interaction via the web, regular forums, 3W Seminars, conferences, youth camps as well as opportunities to attend each other’s ministry events.

4   What is the Format of the event?

The Conference will feature a combination of spiritual, exemplary and testimonial sessions. Representatives from different regions will have the opportunity to share the challenges and successes of their ministry in their home countries.  There will also be break-out sessions focusing on youth ministry, pastoral ministry, and music ministry.  Matt Anderson, Preaching Associate at Crossings Community Church in OKC, will be the keynote speaker throughout the event and messages will also be delivered by Ken Oldham (3W- The Middle East) and Daniel Kihm (3W- The Netherlands). There will also be a Q&A session, as well as a Roundtable Discussion on the purpose and vision of forming a network.  All the events are are structured to bring about new friendships and lead toward a commitment service that will challenge all of us to raise our level of commitment to each other and to the Lord in ministry.  It will be a powerful event.

5   Actions of 3W Leadership Network (3WLN)

The October Young Leaders Forum will be an initial meeting for young leaders throughout the region. From this meeting, we hope to create an ongoing 3W Leadership Network (3WLN). This network would be a commitment to further interconnectivity and regular interaction via the web, regular forums, 3W Seminars, conferences, youth camps as well as opportunities to attend each other’s ministry events. The network will assist in the development of local youth programs, young singles and young married couples programs in each country. This will be the first international group of young leaders in the Church of God that will grow up doing strategic, coordinated international ministry together across multiple countries, knowing each other, having regular contact, and changing the world for Christ.

6   When will 3WLN meet in the future?

We hope that the 3W Leadership Network will informally bring together all key young leaders at least biennially for training, encouragement, and synergistic regional strategizing.  Individuals and small groups of the network will also support one another’s ministry events. For example, Italy leadership will be joining Bulgarian Youth Camp in 2015 and UK Young Leaders plan to attend Budapest Lectures in the future. 3W Seminars may also be offered in their home countries.  The delegates in Switzerland will be able to decide at a special roundtable session how they would like to move forward.

7   Funding 3WLN

We do not want to foster financial dependency and we hope to create something that can be as self-sustaining as possible. However, churches in Europe tend to be very small (10 to 30 on average) and have very few resources.
Our desire is to cover expenses in several ways:
1) Grants
2) Three Worlds Ministry Budgets
3) 3WLN member contributions
4) International countries contributing to support their young leaders
5) North American Church of God Partnerships/Sponsorships

8   How can my church be involved?

Many of the leaders who have been invited come from small congregations in Europe/ME and may have difficulty with paying the cost of room and board or travel expenses. The cost of Room/Board for the full week is $350. Travel expenses may vary depending on if delegates require flights. If you or your church would be interested in sponsoring an individual or delegates from a specific country please contact us at pj@three-worlds.com . Gifts of sponsorship can be sent online or through Project Link -  NextGen Fund (42.30401). Make checks payable to Church of God Ministries and indicate the project number and “3WLN” on the memo line.

Church of God Ministries
c/o Project Link
PO Box 2420
Anderson, IN 46018-2420

3W Seminars: Children and Family Ministry

This month, Three Worlds is excited to host a team from County Line Church (Auburn, Indiana) to lead seminars in Paris and Rome on Children and Family Ministry.  The team includes Nathan Tatman, 3W Roundtable participant and Mission Advancement Pastor, will be joined by Mary Ellen Rayle who is County Line’s Kids Ministry Pastor, and Chelsea Buckwaler who is the Kids Ministry Assistant.  The team will present the seminar at the Church of God congregation (Eglise de Dios) in Paris on March 21-22, and then again for Italian Church of God congregations in Ostia on March 28-29.

 

Joining the presentations in Paris will be Ken and Keli Oldham, 3W Middle East.  The EDD in Paris was planted by Michel Fegali, a Lebanese graduate of the Mediterranean Bible College, and it consists largely of believers from Lebanese, Egyptian, and other Arabic speaking backgrounds.  The congregation worships in French and Arabic each week, but their children’s ministry is offered only in French.  The EDD pastoral ministries have recently been handed over to a young Lebanese born believer, Samir Salibi.  The Oldhams have been getting to know and encouraging Samir via Skype video conferences over the last year.  With the work the Oldhams are doing with congregations in Egypt and Lebanon, and the weekly children’s ministry program they offer to Egyptian children in English, this is a great opportunity to begin creating relationships for future partnership and mutual support between the Church of God in France and the Middle East.

 

We asked each of the County Line team to answer a question about the upcoming seminars for this post; here are their questions and answers.

 

Nathan, as a Missions Advancement Pastor who has been actively supportive of the approach of 3W in Europe and Middle East, what excites you most about the future of the Church in our region?

"I am very excited for this next season of ministry and church life within the Europe and Middle East Region. Over the last four years I have seen exponential increase in connectivity amongst churches and leaders, a hunger for partnerships with pastors and churches in Europe, Middle East, and North America, the next generation of leaders adding a voice to the local church, and health beginning to permeate in these congregations. The church in North America must take notice of what is happening as we are in the midst of seeing God do some amazing work in and through His people and the local churches. I believe the foundation has now been laid for these next years to see these once struggling churches and isolated leaders to flourish in the gifts, abilities, and ministries that God has designed for them." 

 

Mary Ellen, your approach to Children's Ministry is family-centered; what are one or two things you hope to encourage or inspire the congregations in France and Italy to do as they minister to the next generations?

"One of the best opportunities the Church has to reach more people for Christ is through children and families. I am looking forward to meeting with the congregations in France and Italy to share my passion about the great power we have when the family and church unite in shaping  faith development and nurturing spiritual growth.  I want to encourage them to think about creative and meaningful ways to include children in their worship and church life.  I hope leaders will consider prioritizing ministry to children and families in their planning with the potential of impacting more people for Christ.  And ....we hope it is fun!  We are bringing some engaging ideas for Bible stories, memory projects, crafts and games that will help all of us, kids and adults, learn to look with fresh eyes and listen with understanding ears."


Chelsea, you are the youngest on the team presenting next week; what are you most looking forward to experiencing as you interact with Christians in these different cultures?

"I am so excited for this opportunity and eager to see how God brings everything together. I can’t wait to meet and build relationships with the people in France and Italy. God has placed on our hearts Bible stories, activities, and teaching methods to share about Children’s Ministry. Although we are coming to share with other church leaders from different cultures, I know that we will be learning from them how they do ministry and interact with each other.  I am very thankful and honored to be a part of this workshop and look forward to sharing my heart for family and children. I have grown already through preparation and prayer over the last several months. God is amazing and doing great things and I can only hope to be a light to the people we meet in Europe." 

 

Three Worlds is so thankful for the partnership and support offered by congregations like County Line.  We are hopeful for the seminars in the next two weeks, and we want to invite you to pray with us for the equipping and inspiration that will take place in each location.  Pray also for the Church throughout the region to intentionally, creatively, and powerfully work to pass the faith on to the next generations.

3W's Fight Against Sex-Trafficking

The problem of sexual slavery and sex-trafficking has exploded around the world in the last 15 years.  New technological inventions, open-borders, conflict, and the ease of travel at the beginning of the 21st Century  has made it easy for sexual slavery networks to erupt around the world.  Approximately 20 million people are caught in sexual slavery and 98% of those trafficked are women and children.  Three Worlds works in three regions where the problem is particularly acute:  Western Europe (home to street prostitution and many brothels), Eastern Europe (the source of many of the trafficked women and children), and the Middle East (where conflict and refugee migrations are making it easy to prey upon women and children). Becoming involved in the fight against this scourge was not an option, but absolutely necessary.

Berlin is one of the most international and open cities in the world.  It is also a city connected to many of the networks involved in sex-trafficking.  The number of red-light districts has increased from 2 to 7 in just the past couple of years.  Five years ago as part of her ministry on the Three World's Team, Rhonda Philips (3W-Berlin) began working at a cafe that provides food, shelter, counseling, and friendship to women working as prostitutes on the streets.  The vast majority of these women are working the streets against their will.  It is common for women from Eastern Europe to be promised work as domestic helpers, nannies, or other jobs in Western Europe, only to find that they have been tricked and forced into slavery.  In some cases, "boyfriends" lead them to Western Europe on a romantic vacation and lead them to apartments where they are repeatedly raped, enslaved, given a crushing debt to pay-off and have their families  back home threatened.  Others were forced into slavery or captured as children and have been living on the streets ever since.  

In the past few years, Rhonda (who has spent more than 20 years on the mission-field and can converse in English, Russian, Hungarian, and German) saw her role in the cafe increase.  Over the years, there were women that longed to escape and who did with the help of Rhonda and her friends at the cafe.  It became increasingly clear that what was needed was a long-term shelter; a place where the women could safely escape their pimps, get off the streets, and begin the process of rebuilding their lives and returning to their homes.  Surprisingly, Berlin--a city of 4 million people, is not remotely prepared to provide this kind of shelter to victims.  

Rhonda's dream of creating a shelter became a multi-denominational reality in a very short-time.  A talented team assembled around Rhonda and includes Josh and Audrey Weiger (3W-Berlin) our newest team members.  Rhonda, Audrey and the rest of the team began the process of registering a new non-profit in the city of Berlin and it is called Pink Door (see website).  The speed at which this has come about has been a God-ordained thing.  The need is immense and the amount of women wanting to escape (and the danger) has increased dramatically in the last couple of years.  Everyone understands this is a tremendous need and the city of Berlin needs faith-based organizations to help fight the problem.  Even a local mayor of a suburb is wanting the Pink Door project based in his town.  In November, Pink Door's official registration as a recognized Non-Profit was granted.  We are now at the phase of finishing up the writing of the business plan (which has already been steered considerably by Audrey Weiger), applying for funds for the project and beginning the training of the staff.  We will first open an office in the city, which will not only be an "office," but also a counseling center.  Our target date for opening is late Spring 2015.  The shelter will come later in Fall 2015.  

Meanwhile, Rhonda and the team continue to minister to women and see them accept Christ, escape from slavery, or receive love with no strings attached.  They are also assembling a team to go into the brothels!

Pink Door is just the beginning.  It will provide more opportunities for our ministry partners to serve the women, furnish our shelter, and fund this safe-space.  With our regional network, our dream is to continue building on Pink Door by helping with job-training, re-location back home, impacting a new generation with scholarships for women and children, and even assist the women in starting businesses.  The first step, however, is creating a safe space where the life of sexual slavery can be left behind.

The team that has been assembled is outstanding, the need is great, and the strategy is wholistic and long-term.  Three Worlds is looking for individuals and churches that want to help fund these first key years of the shelter's expenses, or women that are willing to work as volunteers in the near future, and people that want to contribute to invest in the new life of these women.  If you or your church are interested in joining our 3W team as we launch Pink Door, please go to the CONTACT US page and write us a message.  We will respond immediately.  We can't do it without you.